Cowboys Make Key Decision on Tony Pollard’s Future: Report

Tony Pollard

Getty The Cowboys plan on retaining RB Tony Pollard, according to an NFL Network report.

It appears the Dallas Cowboys have made a decision on running back Tony Pollard’s future.

As reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Friday, March 3, the Cowboys will retain Pollard by placing the franchise tag on him if they’re unable to reach a long-term deal with him before the Tuesday deadline.

In this scenario, the Cowboys would have until July 17 to reach an agreement on a new contract before the tag becomes permanent for Pollard for the 2023 season. Dallas went through a similar scenario with tight end Dalton Schultz last offseason before failing to reach a long-term contract agreement with him. Schultz ended up playing under the franchise tag worth $10.9 million during the 2022 season.

If Pollard ends up playing under the franchise tag for the 2023 season, that would cost a shade under $10.1 million.

It’s not exactly a surprise that the Cowboys have made bringing back Pollard their No. 1 objective. Not only did the 25-year-old clinch his first Pro Bowl berth last season, he was arguably the team’s biggest playmaker, averaging 5.9 yards per touch. Pollard’s value became even more obvious as starting running back Ezekiel Elliott struggled through his worst season, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry.

Jerry Jones Says Tony Pollard is ‘Big Part’ of Cowboys’ Plans

Team owner Jerry Jones addressed the topic while speaking to reporters on Friday, saying that Dallas plans to keep Pollard — whether that’s on the franchise tag or a long-term deal.

Via Jon Machota of The Athletic:

“Cowboys owner Jerry Jones makes it clear, RB Tony Pollard isn’t going anywhere, whether that’s a contract extension or franchise tag,” says Machota. ‘Tony is certainly a big part of our plans.'”

And while the Cowboys have made it clear they want to bring their young star runner back into the fold, Jones also stressed he wants Elliott to return. The 27-year-old running back is due to earn a $16.7 million cap hit for the 2023 season, the second-highest of any running back in the league.

“Jerry Jones still very much wants Ezekiel Elliott to remain a Dallas Cowboy,” says Machota. “He believes they can make it work financially to keep Tony Pollard and Elliott.”

If Elliott is to return for a eighth season with the Cowboys, he’ll have to agree to restructure his contract to lower that cap hit.

Why the Cowboys Would Want Ezekiel Elliott Back for 2023

Despite Elliott’s declining efficiency, he holds value as the team’s primary ball carrier. As effective as Pollard is, his value may be at his highest when he doesn’t have to carry the ball the majority of the time. During the 2022 season, Elliott out-gained Pollard — 231 carries to 193 — despite missing two games.

But it’s also obvious that Elliott’s skills have eroded and his efficiency has declined. Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports points out how Elliott simply lacks any sort of big-play ability at this stage of his career.

“Last season was probably the worst of Elliott’s career,” says Dajani. “Among the 22 NFL players to record 200 rushes, Elliott ranked last or tied for last in yards per rush (3.8), percentage of 10-yard rushes (7.4%) and tackles avoided (32). Pollard on the other hand ranked first in the NFL in yards per touch (5.9).”

The Cowboys want both of their running backs to return. It seems obvious that Pollard will be back, but the question is, will Elliott also return?

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